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While I was at university in the late 1970s, I was told by a faculty advisor that the Greek rowers at the Battle of Salamis were given cushions that greatly increased their comfort and efficiency (and the Persians were not). This, in turn, would have derived from the fact that the Greek rowers were "free" men, while the Persian rowers were galley slaves.

Much has been made in history books about how the Greeks outmanoeuvred the Persians in the narrow straits around Salamis. Could the truth be more prosaic, that the Greeks simply out-rowed the Persians? And would this have stemmed from the fact that the Greek rowers were free, were generally treated better than their Persian counterparts, and were basically more motivated to win?

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"How much did the rowers affect the outcome of the Battle of Salamis?" –  Mark C. Wallace May 28 '13 at 16:48
Although the status of the rowers may have played its part, I don't think it was the more significant factor. The Greeks were fighting for their homes, in a very familiar terrain, while the Persians were fighting thousands of miles away from their homes, in seas they were seeing for the first time. We don't really have a lot of details for the actual battle, but we do know that the Greeks were backing away and only attacked when they had lured the Persians in the more strategically advantageous point of the straits. Thus, familiarity with the terrain would be the more important factor. –  Yannis Rizos May 28 '13 at 17:13
@MarkC.Wallace: Thanks for the edit. The Greeks were outnumbered something like 2 to 1. That didn't matter as much as it might have in the open ocean, because the in the Straits around Salamis, you could only have combat of X on X ships at a time. The Greek ships outmaneuevered the Persians at every step of the way and won. But I could attirbute "outmaneuever" to "outrow." Probably only someoen with a naval or maritime background could answer this definitively, perhaps a rowing hobbyist; my faculty adviser couldn't, some 35 years ago. –  Tom Au May 28 '13 at 17:15
US Naval textbooks attribute the victory to strategy, not to the motivations of the ... ship's motivators.... Ultimately I don't think this question can be answered. I can't imagine a source we could consult, and there are probably legal problems with a full re-enactment. –  Mark C. Wallace May 28 '13 at 17:39
@MarkC.Wallace: To the best of my recollection, the faculty advisor in question was this man. law.yale.edu/faculty/11819.htm. Apparently, he had seen, or perhaps graded, a paper alleging the above in 1978. The paper itself is probably not available, but it must have been based on some sources. Then the issue is, can we track down the sources. –  Tom Au May 28 '13 at 20:48

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Check out Victor Davis Hanson's excellent book "Carnage and Culture - Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power" for some interesting insight on the value of slaves vs non-slaves as they relate to the Salamis battle

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And that insight is ... ? –  andy256 Mar 19 '14 at 6:05

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